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The art of maths

The hidden beauty of complex formulas is brought to life in a new exhibition at the University of Melbourne

Not everyone who looks at a mathematical equation or algorithm can see it as a thing of beauty.

University of Melbourne research fellow Dr Marcus Volz not only sees this quality but also brings it to life on canvas.

Dr Volz produces stunning, computer-generated works of art that are visual displays of mathematical patterns and structures, and dynamic animations of mathematical processes.

Each piece features many thousands or millions of data points that can take hours or even days to process.

Gencircles: The result of a simple generative growth algorithm by which new circles attach themselves to the existing population of circles one at a time, without colliding with any of the existing circles.

Swirl: An abstract plot derived from the same alphabet of randomly-generated glyphs, rotated around the z-axis to produce a swirl effect.

“I have been in a highly mathematical profession my whole life and I have just felt like I have not had any artistic outlet,” says Dr Volz, who has a PhD in engineering/applied mathematics and is studying geometric networks, optimisation and computational geometry.

Lunes: Special regions used to improve the performance of an algorithm for solving the Steiner tree problem, which asks for a shortest network interconnecting a given set of points.

“My art is based on underlying mathematics but I am producing them for art’s sake,” he says. “I have a concept in mind and that might have been inspired by an algorithm or a mathematical idea or structure and I write a computer code to follow that thread.”

Plot 10: Plots of facial annotation data generated from facial feature localisation algorithms that take images of human faces and automatically extract feature points such as the eyes and face outline.

Birds: Asemic writing (wordless writing or writing without semantic content) derived from a randomly-generated alphabet of glyphs, with interpolation used to create a noisy effect.

Visualisation of Mathematical, Algorithmic and Data-Derived Patterns and Structures is on at the George Paton Gallery from April 5-13.

Banner image and article images: Supplied

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